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Speaking of words (11/26/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Be careful what words you spew - you might end up eating them.

My family would likely agree that I'm seldom at a loss for words. Even I, "motor mouth," realize there aren't always words to express how we're feeling. At times it's more about what isn't said than what is. Speaking for myself only, my senior mind has been known to fall asleep on the job.

Aside from politically correct silence, I have an ongoing love affair with the English language! Unless I'm forest-bound or up a creek without a paddle, I keep a dictionary and a thesaurus close at hand as I write (or prattle on).

Remember when Art Linkletter interviewed little tykes and their hilarious use of words? What's not so funny is an adult out in the working world whose gray matter has been blacked-out, his or her link to others seriously flawed.

I'm not even going to rant about e-mail annihilating what's left of proper grammar, not to mention spelling. Shortcuts can lead to dead ends. (My final word on that.)

In defense of getting down to earth, I concede that there are times when guttural noises are the only response. Is there a better way than "mmmm" to express the mouth-watering experience of sinking your teeth into warm homemade apple pie and ice cream?

An indignant "groan" is more appropriate than blasting forth with profanity when the son-in-law's misplaced golf ball shatters Dad's kitchen window (sprinkling glass shards all over the steaming apple pie). "Sic ‘im boy!"

Mumble jumble! An Archie Bunker "jeeeez" may be all it takes to let the troops know that you're not a happy camper. Under the breath, one's own pet words seem to ease temporary distress. "Ugh," "ooga," "umph," "cowabunga" and "chucks!" express mild to mediocre dissatisfaction.

Children read body language better than anyone. When city cousin Sam comes to visit his country cousins Alyssa and Alexandra their oomph explodes. Ooffdah!

In June, during a day with the kiddies, as Grandma began showing signs of a melt-down, Sam, six, questioned my demeanor. "Grandma, you're making that funny sound again. Are you upset?" I realized that I was behaving like an old grouch. "Hmmm."

Suddenly three darling imps are transformed into the Three Stooges. I don't let them see me sweat. "Grandma's just venting. Have fun. Don't mind me. I don't suppose anyone would be interested in a nap!"

"Zzzzzzz!" (That would be grandma.)

"For the love of Pete!" "What in Sam Hill?" "Holy cow!" Some of the mindless remarks from the past reduce wordplay to nonsense. Maybe we need more of that in our regimented lives. I mean, I can't remember the last time I heard someone say "casarah sarah," "zipitty doodah" or "liar, liar pants on fire!" On second thought...

So often a poet or a creative writer searches for that magic word that never seems to reveal itself. You nearly have it, in a flash of emotion and that instantaneous experience, a breath away...and yet so far from clarity.

From Robert Frost's "A Passing Glimpse," these words speak of unattainable knowledge beyond human grasp.

Was something brushed across my mind

That no one on earth

will ever find?

Heaven gives its glimpses only to those

Not in position to look

too close.

For further inspiration just ask a child. Their most profound messages are not expressed in words. Pay attention!

Janet Burns is a native of Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@earthlink.net 


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